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Saving lives at sea

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Met Office already have strong bonds which are being reinforced with growing links between the organisations.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a household name, a familiar charity that saves lives at sea. As its work is often intertwined with the weather, the RNLI and Met Office have close ties. That could be why Met Office staff voted for the RNLI to become our official charity for three years.

Both organisations complement each other, protecting lives. Lifeboat crews check forecasts before putting out to sea, however, as Ros Whitlock, Corporate Partnerships Manager from the RNLI describes, connections between the two organisations run even deeper:

“We both have proud histories and are trusted leaders in our fields. RNLI volunteers are always ready to answer the call and, like the Met Office, the RNLI is a 24/7 organisation.”

‘All-weather’ lifeboats

Similar to the Met Office, technology plays a big part in RNLI’s work. For example, the new Shannon Fleet, the latest ‘All-weather’ lifeboats capable of operating in all conditions, are currently being produced to help reach casualties 50% faster.

The boats are being built in-house at RNLI’s new Allweather Lifeboat Centre. “It was a big investment but is an example of innovation that will help save lives, plus the organisation will be able to save at least £3 million each year once fully up and running,” explains Ros.

The RNLI strives for continual improvement, challenging, creating, innovating and integrating sustainable ways of working as well as saving lives.

High standards

“We want to give more back, to people, the society and the environment, than we take out,” says Ros. “For instance, we have reduced our environmental impacts, installing ground source heat pumps in lifeboats stations and solar collectors on lifeguard units.”

Once deployed, the RNLI Flood Rescue Team aims to be on location within 24 hours. Ros explains, “At our head office in Poole, we use the Met Office Hazard Manager service during flooding to prepare rescue teams and let volunteers and staff know about weather risks. Storms and floods can create terrifying conditions so we rely on forecasts to make decisions on how to carry out rescues, manage risks and be available at the right time, considering tides and weather.”

Sharing expertise

Katie Hickmott, Met Office Partnership Communications Manager says, “It’s early days but our joint objectives include fundraising campaigns, increasing reach of messages to different audiences, utilising weather information, general collaboration, and sharing expertise.”

A closer connection will see both organisations help and learn from each other. “We want to communicate messages to keep people safe, working together to reach as many people as possible,” says Ros. “The RNLI gets access to weather expertise while we can help the Met Office reach different audiences. We have 237 lifeboat stations, over 210 lifeguarded beaches, and 1,110 branch networks, all of which represent opportunities.”

At the heart of local communities

The RNLI relies on volunteers and support from local communities. Met Office employee Peter Kerr is a volunteer lifeboat crew member in Lerwick in Shetland.

“The RNLI is held in high regard in Shetland. Deep sea and coastal fishing are an important part of the community here, the offshore oil industry employees many people, while ferries to Aberdeen face a voyage of at least 12 hours. The RNLI is funded by voluntary donations – last year around £100,000 was raised for the Lerwick lifeboat, with the vast majority raised in Shetland.”

“We’re on call 24/7/365. When my pager goes off, I have 10 minutes to get to the station. Like a few of the crew, I had no sea-going experience, but RNLI trained us in all aspects of the job. The Met Office and my workmates are very accommodating when I need time off or shift swaps for training, and I’m hugely appreciative of that.”